CANTON – A dozen Crenshaw Middle School eighth grade students are getting lessons in entrepreneurship.
The students are participating in the Youth Entrepreneur Program developed by the Stark County Minority Business Association.
During the five-week program program, students will break into four groups of three, take on a business idea and develop a plan for a company. Later they will pitch their idea to area business leaders, similar to a “Shark Tank” presentation.
Details of Stark’s Youth Entrepreneurship Program
The program’s goal is to get students excited about the prospect of starting a business, said Leonard Stevens, chief executive officer of the Minority Business Association.
As the second session started on Tuesday, the students received tools — Google Chromebooks and a backpack — to help them in the program. The laptops are courtesy Spectrum and Charter Communications, a partner in the program.
Students also heard words of encouragement from state Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, and received some coaching from Nate Chester III, a barber and owner of Chester’s MopShop.
“I’m hoping, and I’m banking that you’ll be the next generation of entrepreneurs here in Stark County,” West said.
Crenshaw students embrace the Stark County Minority Business Association effort
This is the first year for the Youth Entrepreneur Program, but Stevens wants to see it expanded next year. He hopes that teaching students about entrepreneurship might show them alternatives to college.
The Crenshaw students applied for the program after hearing a presentation from the Stark County Minority Business Association. Applicants were reviewed by a selection committee.
Stevens said the association, which formed in 2018, spent two years developing the Youth Entrepreneur Program. Brenda Stevens — Leonard’s wife and an educator retired from Malone University — developed the curriculum.
Students meet for two-hour sessions where they receive instruction and hear from a local business owner who also serves as a coach during the session. Students also participate in games and activities that help them develop their business ideas.
“We want to get they thinking about the community and thinking about the problems that they want to solve,” Brenda Stevens said.
The four teams brainstormed ideas for businesses during the first session and spent the second session selecting a business. The next two sessions will be spent preparing for the presentation, which will be on May 10.
Leonard Stevens said he hopes to have four or five judges evaluate the presentations. He’s working with Stark County Community Moving Forward to find local business executives who can serve as judges.
Funding for the program is through a grant from the city, Leonard Stevens said. The association received $50,000 and is using it for this program, along with its Expanding Resources for All (ERA) program. This year, there are 17 local businesses in the ERA program.